Fantastic Fest: The First Days
Fantastic Fest has, in just six years, gone from a weird, little-known genre film festival for geeks to a weird, well-known genre film festival for geeks. In fact, some might even call it kind of legendary. This is the festival that has started careers, pulled movies past and present from the shadows into the limelight and inspired one epic karaoke round.
This isn't a film festival geared solely toward pleasing critics and pushing Oscar-bait on the public. This is a movie festival for movie fans just as much as anyone else. Not to mention with the addition of things like the Arcade, the Feud and the Fantastic Debates, it's become more of a week-long geekstravaganza.
One of the biggest film debuts this year was from a cult breakout favorite from two years ago - "The Human Centipede." The story of the film goes to show how unique of a film fest Fantastic has become. This is a movie that couldn't have possibly gotten the attention it did at lets say a Sundance or Cannes. Now it's a cultural touchstone, even getting parodied on South Park.
The sequel, or the "Second Sequence,"debuted Thursday with director Tom Six in attendance. He's a personable guy and funny. He wore a white suit and straw cowboy hat and cracked a lot of jokes during the Q&A session after the film. Geek Confession: I never actually saw "The Human Centipede," not because it seemed too gross, I had just heard from reliable sources it wasn't a very good film. And seeing "The Second Sequence" did nothing to convince me to check out the first. This is less of a movie and more of a concept for a movie strung out with no characters, plot or story to hold it up. The two movies are connected only in name, concept (a guy wanting to make a human centipede) and one clever element that loosely connects the two. I won't give it away but it is a clever bit of meta storytelling on Six's part. Unless your only desire is to see graphic images of people being assembled in the most gruesome way there's no reason to see this one.
Also on Thursday I saw a little Korean action, superhero film called "Haunters." While there are a couple of good scenes in the movie delivered with a bit of style and zaniness, Haunters is mostly a flat, boring chase sequence that lasts two hours. While it strives to create its own superhero narrative it forgets to tell us who these people are and why we should care. There's little chance of this getting any sort of distribution so don't worry about avoiding it, it'll never come to you.
Friday I say a couple of quieter, more character driven pieces. One, called "Summerland," is a pleasant enough film from Iceland full of the country's lore and superstitions. But this isn't a scary horror piece about ghosts from the past come back to haunt. Instead it's a film about the importance of traditions, family and heritage - even if you don't necessarily believe in the stories associated with them literally.
"Snowtown" was my other choice Friday and it is a disturbing portrait of true-life serial killer John Bunting. It's very much an actors' piece, with most of the plot conveyed not by exposition but by looks and innuendo. It's not a complicated movie but you do have to pay attention to know what's going on under the surface - where most of the movie's action takes place. Daniel Henshall does a great job as Bunting, selling the killer's menace and charm.
Friday capped off with an "Attempted Rap Throwdown," party at The Highball. Fantastic Fest invited the best rappers they could find to spit about geek topics to the theme music most associated with it. For instance, a pair of rappers (the only women in the showcase) rapped about the A-Team to the A-Team theme song. It's a clever idea but it didn't result in much in the ways of quality rapping with the exception of Damon Jones' rap about Peanuts and its beloved character like Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Jones had style, rhythm, flow and stage presence - all the things you need for a quality rap. Jones was the opening act so I hoped for some kick-ass raps, but Unfortunately no one else lived up to the bar set by Jones as each one floundered on stage. The only exception was Henri Mazza, the event's MC and Drafthouse host extraordinaire. Mazza surprised everyone in attendance with an exceptional freestyle after the contestants ran their course. It makes you wonder what else the man has up his sleeve.
Come back tomorrow for more Fantastic Fest - including my favorite movies, (so far), A recap of the Arcade, and the Fantastic Debates - a boxing match plus debate that is a festival favorite.